The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) Donated Orthodontic Services (DOS) program serves children who otherwise could not afford orthodontic treatment across 9 states. In 2016, the outreach is looking to expand nationwide, but it needs more AAO members to join.
“Access to care is an issue of large proportion,” said Ann Sebaugh, staff liaison to the DOS Charitable Board of Directors. “It affects all areas of the country, and the leadership wanted to give back to all the patients that have been so very good to the profession.”
Dental Lifeline Network will administer the national program. It will refer patients who financially qualify to participating AAO members who will then provide treatment on a pro bono basis. All patients are indigent children who don’t have insurance coverage or who do not qualify for other assistance from the states where they live.
“They don’t qualify for the public assistance programs, and yet their family can’t afford orthodontic or dental coverage,” said Sebaugh. “So the Donated Orthodontic Services program is designed to be able to help those patients that otherwise wouldn’t be able to get the care that they need and want.”
Patients must submit financial documents such as tax returns to Dental Lifeline Network for review. Dental Lifeline also educates applicants about the orthodontic treatment process and ensures that patients who are referred to orthodontists are prepared to comply with all treatment requirements. Even then, participating orthodontists make the final call.
“The orthodontist can double check to see if they feel like the patient is going to be compliant in terms of wearing elastics, avoiding foods that would cause appliance breakage, etc,” said Sebaugh. “And if for any reason, an orthodontist feels like a patient wouldn’t be a good fit for their practice, they do not have to accept that patient into treatment.”
Since the program’s launch in 2009, 482 patients have completed treatment. Nearly 500 more patients are currently in treatment, with 96 cases awaiting treatment. Also, 16 dental labs are participating by providing retainers, expanders, and other equipment. So far, the DOS counts 497 participating orthodontists among its ranks.
“I would love to have at least another 500, or even more,” Sebaugh said.
Any AAO member who is actively practicing can volunteer for the program. Each orthodontic provider typically agrees to treat one patient per year, though providers are encouraged to accept more. There are no guidelines or criteria for patient acceptance.
The Donated Orthodontic Services program is a 501(c)(3) charitable entity, allowing for tax-deductible contributions. To volunteer or find out more about DOS, orthodontists can email Dental Lifeline Network at DOS@dentallifeline.org or call (866) 201-5906. Or, they can contact Sebaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.